Watson, Sir Charles Moore (1844–1916), imperial soldier and administrator, was born 10 July 1844 in Dublin, second son of William Watson, civil engineer and JP, of Dublin, and Sarah, daughter of the Rev. Moore Morgan (rector of Dunlavin, Co. Wicklow) and granddaughter of the Swiss hymn composer and theologian Dr César H. A. Malan. He was educated at TCD and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, from which in 1866 he was commissioned lieutenant in the Royal Engineers.
Attached to the staff (1874–5) of Gen. Charles Gordon, governor-general for the Egyptian government of the Equatorial Nile basin, Watson was employed with Lieutenant W. H. Chippindall, RE, on the survey of the White Nile from Khartoum to Rageef. Their work was published in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society. Watson was elected a fellow of the society in 1875. Gordon and Watson remained close friends, and Watson would be the last to see Gordon off from Cairo in January 1884, on his fateful journey to Khartoum.
Three years at the war office in London followed, and in 1878 Watson was promoted captain, and appointed ADC to the inspector-general of fortifications. In 1882, at the time of Arabi Pasha's nationalist revolt, he was ordered to Egypt to serve in the intelligence section of the British expeditionary force. On the day after the British victory at the battle of Tel el-Kebir (13 September 1882), Watson led the small force that daringly captured the citadel of Cairo from a much larger number of the enemy. In 1883 he was seconded to the Egyptian army, to assist in its reorganisation under Sir Evelyn Wood. Watson's service in Egypt included survey and intelligence work. His final appointment was as governor-general of the Red Sea littoral during part of the troubled period after the death of Gordon when most of the Sudan was under Dervish control. He was succeeded in this post in 1886 by Col. H. H. Kitchener (qv), and returned to England and his corps. The remainder of Wilson's army career was devoted to the construction and improvement of military installations, in pursuance of the reforms brought about by the barrack act (1890) and the military works acts (1897, 1899, 1901). In 1891 he was appointed assistant inspector-general of fortifications, and promoted lieutenant-colonel the following year. In 1896 he became deputy inspector-general of fortifications, and held this post till his retirement in 1902 with the rank of colonel.
Watson's career after retiring from the army was equally distinguished. On retirement he was selected as British delegate to the International Navigation Congress at Düsseldorf, continuing in this role at Milan in 1905 and at Petrograd in 1908. In 1904 he was appointed secretary to the royal commission for the organisation of the British section of the St Louis exhibition, and made commissioner-general. In 1905 he was elected chairman of the committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund. In 1912 he became chairman of the committee of the British Opthalmic Hospital at Jerusalem. His honours included the CMG (1887), CB (1902), and KCMG (1905). He was also a Knight of Grace of St John of Jerusalem.
He married (1880) Geneviève, daughter of the Rev. Russell Cook. Watson died 15 March 1916 in London. His obituary noted that ‘Little as he lived in Ireland since boyhood, he retained the accent of his birthplace and remained always a patriotic Irishman of invincible unionist faith’.
Watson's bibliography reflects his varied experience and wide range of interests. It includes Comparative vocabulary of the languages spoken at Suakin: Arabic, Hadendoa and Beni Amer (1888); volume 3 of the History of the Corps of Royal Engineers (1889); The life of Major-general Sir Charles Wilson (1909), in which he gives a reasoned defence of Wilson's conduct of the Gordon relief expedition; Weights and measures as described in the laws of England from Anglo-Saxon times (1910); and Fifty years' work in the Holy Land . . . 1865–1915 (1915).